Election year voters facing weakest protections against voting discrimination in half a century
WASHINGTON – Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement in advance of the 51st anniversary of Bloody Sunday:
“It has now been 51 years since Bloody Sunday marchers were brutalized by police for taking a stand against rampant voting discrimination across Alabama. Their bravery led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which became one of the most successful civil rights laws in American history.
But since the Supreme Court gutted the VRA nearly three years ago in Shelby County v. Holder, insidious forms of modern day voting discrimination have desecrated the legacy of those marchers. While Congress has taken symbolic steps to honor Selma’s foot soldiers – by visiting Alabama on Bloody Sunday’s anniversary, and by awarding those foot soldiers with a Congressional Gold Medal – many lawmakers have done nothing to restore the law for which those marchers risked their lives. We can no longer thank members of Congress for these commendable, but ultimately empty gestures.
Today, the campaign to restore the VRA is releasing a video highlighting the story of how, before the Supreme Court gutted it, the VRA protected the rights of minority voters when the city of Calera in Shelby County, Alabama, manipulated voting districts in a discriminatory manner to prevent Ernest Montgomery, the sole African American city councilmember, from being re-elected. As Montgomery says in the video, without the VRA’s ability to block discriminatory practices – as is the case now – it’s ‘very doubtful that an African American or maybe some other minority in our community could possibly … be elected here in Calera.’
The video can be viewed below.
The commemorations this week in Selma are a solemn remembrance of the blood, sweat, tears, and lives involved in securing voting rights for racial minorities in this country. The only appropriate way to celebrate that achievement is by working thoughtfully, and expeditiously, to pass one of the bipartisan proposals currently before Congress that would help breathe life back into the law. And this is particularly important ahead of the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the VRA.
We cannot allow obstructionists in Congress to hijack our country’s progress, taking us back to a place where discrimination is the rule for many of our most vulnerable voters.”